Hiking Nutrition Guide: Fuel Your Trek!

Hiking Nutrition Guide

Hiking is an energy-intensive activity that requires trekking over long distances and for a while. As such, you should prepare your hiking gear and body for this experience. 

It’s easy to feel lethargic while hiking if you don’t boost your energy with proper nutrients.

 Therefore, it’s vital to have a specific nutrition guide depending on how long you’ll be hiking to fuel your trek. But what nutrients should you prioritize?

Every hiker who desires to stay energized and fueled during their hike prioritizes food rich in carbs, protein, and healthy fats. The carbs help provide rapid energy for your body. The proteins and healthy fats aid in maintaining energy levels while preventing fatigue. But most importantly, drinking lots of water is vital to remain hydrated.

You’ve got your hiking backpack ready and set to go, but are you fueling your body for a successful hike? 

Join me as we explore the significance of proper nutrition before and during hiking. We’ll also cover the types of food that will help keep you fueled.

What Is a Healthy Meal to Eat Before a Hike?

Hiking Nutrition Guide

What we eat before hiking influences our body’s performance on the trail and how soon we may feel tired. 

So, fueling your body’s energy with the right meals is crucial, especially for multi-day hikes. 

Therefore, we’ve sourced healthy meal ideas with enough nutrients to energize you before your hike.

#1. Oatmeal with Fruits

The classic breakfast oatmeals are great sources of complex carbs, steadily supplying the body with the needed energy. 

You can add fruits like blueberries, strawberries, and nuts for fiber and other nutrients.

#2. Protein-Packed Smoothie

These protein-packed fruit smoothies play two roles in your hike. They sustain energy and also hydrate you. 

However, remember that fruits don’t contain high protein, so adding protein powders to the smoothie is recommended. 

You can also add Greek yogurt, another good source of protein and probiotics.

#3. Whole Grain Toast

Such toasts also contain complex carbs that offer sustained energy. You can add nut butter and bananas for healthy fats, protein, potassium, and other nutrients. 

Others pair with fresh veggies or avocados, which also works great.

#4. Eggs

Scrambled or boiled eggs with whole grain bagels or toasts are excellent pre-hike meals. They contain protein that helps repair muscle tissues and preserve your body’s energy during hiking.

#5. Lean Meats and Pasta

Meat is an excellent protein source vital to every hiker as it helps repair tissue. Adding it to pasta, a great carb source, along with veggies, can add other vital nutrients. 

This combination will make all the difference in your hike and energize you.

#6. Water

Hydration is just as vital as eating. So it’s essential to drink four glasses of water maximum before hiking. 

Always have a water bottle with you during this activity, and don’t drink it only when you’re thirsty. They play a significant role in keeping you fueled.

Furthermore, you must understand that you should avoid some foods before hiking. They can negatively affect your performance. 

How Long Should You Eat Before a Hike? 

Many nutrition experts recommend having your pre-hike meal 3 to 4 hours before hiking. And it’s important to eat correctly, too. 

Although some hikers feel not eating is better, not everyone feels that way, and we’ll discuss all points below. 

As mentioned above, carbs supply energy, proteins repair the tissues, healthy fats sustain energy, and more. 

Eating before hiking makes you feel fueled, especially when incorporating all the needed nutrients. The carbs give you the energy to continue your hike trek. 

The long walk contributes to microscopic muscle tears, which the proteins you eat help to repair and rebuild. 

Finally, the healthy fat helps sustain the energy from carbs so you don’t quickly tire out. In addition, eating before hiking reduces how your body dehydrates through sweat. 

Many foods you eat contain nutrients that help retain body fluids, such as bananas since they’re electrolyte-rich food.  

In contrast, other hikers don’t enjoy eating before hiking because they believe it may cause digestive issues later. 

But eating two hours at least before the hike gives you proper time to handle bowel problems. It also allows for metabolism, giving the food ample time to produce glycogen and nutrients. 

At best, eat light foods like green yogurts and berries or oats. Eating heavy foods will induce sleep or tiredness.

In conclusion, eating 300-500 calories of food before hiking is advisable. You can calculate the calories in your meal before hiking to help you stick to the average. 

It’s vital to note this as the body only metabolizes a finite calorie amount hourly.

What Are the Essential Nutrients Required for a Hike? 

Fueling your body with the right nutrients is vital when preparing for a hike. And the best way to do that is to eat right. 

But to know what foods to eat, you should know what nutrients to prioritize. And we’ve discussed them below.

#1. Carbohydrates

Carbs are at the forefront of energizing your body and powering muscles. Eating high-carb foods helps you sustain physical activities and endure the hike treks. 

Complex carbohydrates offer better nutrients as they aid in energy release, supplying a stable fuel source. It’s advisable to avoid simple sugars and processed foods.

#2. Protein

Don’t skip your proteins either because they play a significant role in muscle tissue recovery and building. 

They also help in bone building and are essential nutrients for every hiker. Additionally, proteins help in enzymes and hormone formation. 

These enzymes contribute to digestion, which is necessary for obtaining needed nutrients the body works with.

#3. Fats

Fats, as their name imply doesn’t necessarily make one fat. In contrast, healthy fats work to normalize the body’s internal organs. 

They also supply concentrated energy to the body and stabilize its temperature. However, you should eat them moderately.

#4. Water

Water is a key nutrient hikers need, especially since they must maintain hydration. Staying hydrated on hikes is recommended because of the water you lose through sweat. 

It also aids in nutrient transportation throughout the body. Finally, water lubricates joints, so drinking enough water is paramount.

Nutritional Consideration for a Long Hike 

Your body consumes a lot of energy during hike treks, so it’s crucial to refuel consistently. We mentioned above the needed nutrients for every hiker and what role they play in their body. 

But you must know how much carbs, proteins, and slow-burning fats you need. Excessing everything is harmful; too much of it can result in an unsuccessful hiking journey. 

An important nutritional consideration for long hikes is your calorie intake—long and macronutrient percentage ratio. 

You’ll require a significant calorie number, but you shouldn’t exceed 300 calories in an hour. Also, be sure to eat different food that contains all the nutrients your body requires. 

And when considering macronutrients, ensure the carbs are higher. We’ve already helped you create a table to guide you in your meal plan.

Meal TypeMacronutrient RatioRecommended Food Options
Breakfast40% carbohydratesOatmeal with fruits
30% proteinsGreek yogurt and berries
30% healthy fatsEggs with Toast & smoked salmon
Lunch50% carbohydratesTurkey or chicken sandwich
25% proteinsRice and beans with hummus
25% healthy fatsAvocado salad
Dinner40% carbohydratesSweet potatoes and fish sauce
30% proteinsChicken breasts and roasted veggies
30% healthy fatsSalmon and asparagus

In conclusion, eating healthy before hiking is paramount, and this table is a good guide. 

It provides recommended options that you’ll find helpful when personalizing your hiking meal plan.

What Can I Carry As Nutritional Fuel During a Hike?

Regardless of how much you eat before hiking or if you don’t eat, you’ll likely get hungry during your hike. 

And as such, carrying additional nutritious food is recommended to fuel you. 

However, it’s paramount only to go hiking with lightweight foods that provide a balanced nutrient to fuel your trek. We’ve mentioned some of the below.

#1. Trail Mix

Trail mix, as its name implies, combines different dried fruits or nuts eaten along the trails. This mix is well-recognized among hikers because of its portability and nutrient-packed nature. 

You can buy them from stores or make yours, adding whatever fruits and nuts you wish. But generally, trail mixes include the ingredients mentioned below.

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Pistachios
  • Pecans
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Dried cranberries
  • Dried raisins
  • Dried coconut flakes
  • Dark chocolate chips

Remember, the list is endless, and you can substitute any of these ingredients for those of your choice.

#2. Sandwiches and Wraps

Simple foods like trail mixes or energy bars are great, but sometimes you desire something more substantial. 

If so, a sandwich or wrap is an ideal choice. You can make a normal one or add your favorite fillers to satisfy you.

#3. Jerky

For those wanting extra protein, jerky meats are perfect. It is a dried, cured meat that tastes nice while providing you with the appropriate nutrients to repair muscle tissues. 

#4. Cheese and Biscuits

This combination is an excellent choice for a mid-hike snack. Crackers are good carbohydrate biscuits, and the cheese contains protein and fats. 

Eating this provides you with the three essential nutrients your body requires. Packaging harder cheese slices is advisable as they don’t melt easily. 

#5. Fresh Fruits and Veggies with Hummus

For short day hikes, this combo works well, offering you vitamins and minerals while also hydrating your body. 

They’re lightweight, and a small hummus in a Tupperware container won’t weigh much. Hummus is also a great source of fiber, complex carbs, and protein.

Josh Matthews

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